'Songs of Innocence' wins four Grammy Awards
The Grammys, regarded as the most prestigious music prize in the United States, are handed out by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The awards were announced at a ceremony Feb. 8 in Los Angeles.
"Songs of Innocence and Experience," is an epic production that was performed at U-M's Hill Auditorium in April 2004. The performance, in collaboration with the School of Music and University Musical Society (UMS), was conducted by Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London.
The little-performed but much acclaimed song cycle is based on the poetry of William Blake. About 450 musicians performed on an extended stage, representing the University Symphony Orchestra, the Contemporary Directions Ensemble, U-M Choirs (University Choir, Chamber Choir and Orpheus Singers), the UMS Choral Union, the Michigan State University Children's Choir, and more than a dozen soloists from the classical, pop, folk, country and operatic realms.
"It was a collaborative effort in so many areas of the University in pulling everybody together," Bolcom said on the day of the Grammy nominations. "It was so exciting to see this whole town on stage, and the rest of the town in the audience. I feel terribly lucky."
The work was recorded in Ann Arbor for release on the Naxos label, the first commercial recording ever made of the gargantuan work. The performance was held nearly 20 years after Hill Auditorium served as the venue for its U.S. premiere. "Songs of Innocence and Experience" received its world premiere in Stuttgart, Germany, in January 1984.
The performance contains references to jazz, reggae, gospel, ragtime, country and other popular idioms, as well as conventional classical styles.
Composer/pianist Bolcom was born in Seattle in 1938. His many awards include the Pulitzer Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships, several Rockefeller Awards and NEA grants, investiture in the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1992; the 1977 Henry Russel Award and the 1997 Henry Russel Lectureship at U-M, and numerous other honorary degrees, grants and awards.
He has been commissioned to compose new works by orchestras in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle, St. Paul, Vienna, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New York and many others. He composed a monodrama for soprano and string orchestra, "Medusa," which was performed in Ann Arbor last season.
Contact: Laura Lessnau